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Some people may dismiss SRAM's GX one-by group as so much start line slop. Some may believe that anything under six inches of travel is an XC bike. Who are these people? Certainly not us. Or Santa Cruz. And it's obvious that the Hightower Carbon 29 S Complete Mountain Bike doesn’t care. It's a bike for people who ride, not people who read catalogues. Of course, those catalogue readers will be aware of the industry's recent forays into the world of low-travel 29ers that ride more like trail bikes. Those people will be surprised by the Hightower's ability to push that trend into the all-mountain world, adding rock gardens and heavily latticed root systems to the wagon wheel menu.
The Hightower's mid-range travel belies its true nature. Though its travel and wheel clearance may inspire initial comparisons with Mr. Moderate (the 5010) or SC's equivalent of a center in basketball (the Tallboy LT), Santa Cruz instead encourages us to "think of it as the Bronson's taller brother." Yep, that Bronson. Given the implied big-hit aggression of this comparison, we're compelled to dip into the lore of North American ball sports again for another analogy: the Hightower isn't a gangly hoopster so much as a two-wheeled version of a predatory linebacker.
The Hightower's 29er mode and a pair of chainstays that are 15mm shorter than the Tallboy LT mean it's a helluva lot faster over light terrain and rocky climbs than bikes like the Bronson; however, its 67-degree head tube angle, Boost axles, and reworked Virtual Pivot Point suspension all mean that it's just as capable of engaging that speed on enduro descents that would make the steep-angled Tallboy befoul its long-legged pants. Whether you're into taking the direct route over the crux or the big line when dropping in, the Hightower can handle it.
SC is so intent on proving the Hightower's outsized merit over rock gardens that it actually bypassed the Bronson and went straight to the 6.5in Nomad for suspension inspiration. The result is that the link stays out of the way, which may be why the Hightower can accommodate a piggyback shock and a bottle cage — yet one more indication that the Hightower isn't just for XC hardpack or enduro shuttle loops. Instead, it's designed to be the engine on the way up and the sled on the way down.
In the end, the Hightower is still a Santa Cruz, so it features the same Carbon CC frame construction that's ruined our tastes by giving us unrealistic expectations for how carbon should feel. For the top-tier CC frame, the engineers use a higher modulus carbon than the Carbon C model, so less material is required to hit the same strength and stiffness numbers. Less material equates to less weight, and, well, you can see where we're going with this. Climbing and pure speed both benefit when there's less mass for your engine to propel, a stiffer chassis tracks truer across the kind of terrain the Hightower will tempt you into.
The Hightower's two triangles are joined by the latest generation of VPP suspension. SC refers to it in-house as VPP3, but it's essentially the same VPP we know and love with the Nomad-inspired updates mentioned above. A repositioned lower link now shelters above the bottom bracket, increasing ground clearance to decrease the chance of rock strikes while indulging the Hightower's desire to masticate scree fields and pick through the rooty, rocky, techy stuff. The upper link has also wandered up and forward, which makes for a more accommodating standover height for smaller riders wanting a huge ride, and it also stiffens the back end.
The latest VPP's changes aren't limited to wandering links, though; the system's tuning has also been tweaked. Where the old suspension curve described a deep "U," the new VPP's curve resembles a flattened check mark, with less dramatic ramping on either end of the arc. The results are that, during the initial and mid stroke, it boasts increased bump compliance to keep the tires glued to the trail for more traction across lumpy climbs. It also maintains its predecessor's firm feel during accelerations while jockeying for position in a mass start or a finishing sprint. The RockShox Monarch's ramp-up arc doesn't dramatically alter as the shock compresses, so the pedaling platform stays consistent across travel, with less wallowing, bob, and bottom-outs — even while the Boost axle's path turns rearward to absorb big hits deep in its travel.
As you've no doubt gathered from the above, we're obviously big fans of what the Hightower is capable of when run as a mid-travel 29er; however, we do also love the plushness of 27.5+ tires. Sometimes this can be logically rationalized — for riding in snow, for example — but often it comes down to pure impulse. If you can relate, then you'll be pleased to note that the little flip chip niblet that sits in the upper link allows the shock mount to migrate. Being able to reposition the shock attachment point effectively accounts for the 9mm difference in radii between 27.5+ and 29in tires, keeping the geometry as static as possible while allowing the Hightower to serve as three-season race rocket and, come winter, a 27.5+ sleigh ride machine.
- Item #SNZ008S
- Q & A
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
It rides down trails like a tank with no care about trail obstacles. The harder you push it, the better it does. I find myself riding much more loosely as this 29er rolls over things with ease and is often forgiving when needed. It is a PR machine.
Now, despite what I've just mentioned, there are some things I don't love...
Weight: It is heavier than I was anticipating/wanting. S/X01 build. My plan was to upgrade components over time, so that should help a little.
Fit: I'm 6'5" and 200 lbs. I could probably use a XXL. I am more stretched out than I would like to be with the high seat, although, not a deal breaker. I am long legged with average torso.
Uphill: Historically my weakness, but it seems to be highlighted with this ride. Loved the reviews that mentioned the climbing power. I came from a 2x10. It does climb ok, but my weakness combined with the 1x11, platforms, and additional weight have made it more of a challenge UH, which is the opposite of what I was wanting. I am a stronger rider because of it.
Overall, it is a great ride and I am mostly happy. It is an absolute beast on the DH. I have received compliments on almost every ride since I've had it. Buying through BC was a pleasure, as always. Really wanted to support the LBS, but they weren't competitive.
Big Bike for the Big Wheel Crowd
- Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
I rode both the Hightower and the new Tallboy on consecutive weekends. I'm 5'10
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
Ladies & gentlemen I believe we have discovered the 8th wonder of the world.
Nimble. Sexy. Fast. Fun. Badass.
.... these words only skim the surface on how I would describe this bike.
When people ask me how my brand new SC Hightower 29er rides I consistently find myself at a loss for words. It's one of those things you need to experience for yourself before you can express the feeling it gives you. For those interested and are having a tough time what bike is best for you I'd strongly urge you to keep reading....
I have been mountain biking for 5 years now and this is hands down the best bike I have ever ridden. Ever.
I started mountain biking along the front range of Northern Colorado (Fort Collins) and after riding up there, Denver Area and now out here in Park City I have stuck to the 29er train. I have debated going with a 27.5, but I keep finding myself getting into the cockpit of a 29er because of it's ability to climb, go fast and roll over those technical lines that haunt you if you never rail through em'. I would say this 29er has everything you want in a bike AND more.
With the monarch suspension in the rear this bike climbs like a hardtail (even in the fully open position) and descends like an absolute animal. With 140mm in the front and 135mm in the rear it's a superb balance of all-mountain, enduro and a little taste of that XC. Along with the BOOST wheelset this bike can send it through tight switchbacks with the stiffness traditional 29er's have lacked in the past.
If you like to ride with a massive smile on your face, log some miles, chase technical lines, go fast (up and downhill), and just be cool - look no further than the 2016 Santa Cruz Hightower.
On the fence between the custom build and getting a complete bike? Let's chat. I went with a full custom build and kept mine within a reasonable budget, while treating myself to some tasty additions:)
If you are looking to talk bikes, think through a couple options or interested in hearing my full custom spec'd out build hit me up!
Hey Big Guys
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
I'm not going to go into how this bike rides - it's winning awards left and right, if big wheeled do-everything bikes are your thing then you already know this is the bike for you.
What I do want to comment on is the sizing. I'll admit that when the bike was released and I didn't see an XXL size I was a bit sad. I'd demoed the Tallboy in XXL and it felt great. I'm 6'5" with a pretty proportional build. I can get away with 34" jeans but usually opt for 36" if that helps.
I decided to order the XL anyways. The reach figures are pretty generous and I thought it was a risk worth taking. Backcountry.com has a good return policy so why not.
I'm happy I did because the bike fits very well. I'm currently running the stock stem which isn't marked with a length but I'm guessing it's 60mm. I've also got the seat post showing about 2 inches (slightly less than then the catalogue image).
With the dropper slammed there is a ton of standover and with the dropper all the way up I've got a really gentle elbow bend. I might get a bit longer stem in time and maybe a bar with slightly more rise but for now my wallet is empty so it's going to work. I haven't been able to get it out on a really long ride yet but I'm not experiencing any aches or pains on short rides so I think that's a positive sign.
If you're a bigger guy 6'3"-6'6" and on the fence about the size I'd say pull the trigger. I think you'll be happy. If you're bigger than 6'6" I think you could get away with it but that you will feel cramped.
I don't have a picture of me with my Hightower but I've got one with a Tallboy. I show this so you can gauge your height / build against mine and judge that against a Tallboy. I suspect a lot of people in the market for the Hightower are current Tallboy riders.
Great all mountain bike
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
The first time I rode this bike was on a big descent in Virginia. The moment I pointed the bike downhill it just felt natural and I was popping off rocks and jumping gaps with glee. I had a Tallboy LTc previously and this is a great replacement from Santa Cruz.
I also own a Nomad from Santa Cruz. The Hightower is much more efficient up and it motors through small rocks faster than the Nomad. However, once it gets into baby-head sized rocks the Nomad is the faster bike. On a long descent (3000ft) I dented the Hightower's rims and got a flat which has never happened to me on the Nomad no matter how sever the descent I have pointed it down.
I will ride my Hightower on longer rides which require more pedaling up and where there is less downhill skill needed. I'd take the Hightower to Sedona or Moab, but I'd take a bigger hitting bike to Whistler or the Alps.
If you are looking for a big-wheeled all-mountain bike then I think the Hightower would be a great choice.
Love this Bike
- Familiarity: I've used it several times
I am going to break this review down into 2 categories. First, I am going to review the bike (i.e. how it rides, pros, cons etc.) Second, I will review my experience with Competitive Cyclist. I purchased the Santa Cruz Hightower 29er, the CC version. I must say I absolutely love this bike. Coming from an aluminum stump jumper comp that feels like jack hammer when riding it down hill, I was amazed at how well the Hightower ate up the trail. The Pike fork is absolutely amazing and just glides over any obstacles and monarch rear shock is much better than I initially thought. I was a little worried about the climbing capability of this bike, but it climbs like a beast. The monarch shock does not fully lock out, and this concerned me some, but when I actually rode it up some pretty steep climbs it felt locked out. The bike is so easy to maneuver around turns up and down hill. When riding up the bike does not feel like a 29er. It's easy to pedal right through hard steep turns and really eats up the terrain. Down hill the bike is nice and stiff. It took a little to get used to, as this bike you just point and go. My last bike you had to force into turns. It is very whippy. So I have 2 cons about this bike. First, the brakes. It comes with SLX brakes and my previous bike I rode with XT brakes. There really is no difference in stopping power between the XT and SLX brakes. However, the XT brakes have a few more adjustments that don't make or break the SLX. The reason why I am stating the SLX breaks are a con is I would have really liked this bike to come with a set of the new Guide brakes. I have never used the Guide brakes, but I've heard great things about them. Don't get me wrong the SLX brakes work great, would just have preferred the Guides. Second, I'm not a big fan of the Race Face bars. They are pretty flat so if you prefer something with a rise, like I do, then you are going to want to replace these. Overall, I love this bike. It has everything I could ask for on a bike.
Next, I want to talk about my experience with Competitive Cyclist. I have always been a big proponent of buying from my local mom and pop bike shop, however the shop I frequent most does not carry Santa Cruz. So I ventured out and I finally came across Competitive Cyclist. One of the few shops that actually had the Hightower in stock. I started talking with one of their sales rep Wes and I was greatly surprised. Wes not only gave me a great deal, but he remained patient while flipped back and forth on what bike I wanted. Very please with the service I received. Also, I was really concerned about the shipping and assembly of the bike, but Wes sent me a video of how the bike was to come and how to assemble it. I was a little skeptical, but sure enough the bike comes almost comes completely assembled and is packaged perfectly. Overall, I am very happy I ordered from Competitive Cyclist.
The Trail Bike We've Been Waiting For!
Santa Cruz has a reputation for making some incredible mountain bikes, but their Tallboy LT fell a little flat, so they went back to the drawing board to come up with this beast of rig. With shorter chainstays and a slack headtube angle relative to its predecessor, what you get is a more nimble, yet more capable and predictably handling bike. The new Boost standard has allowed a lot of this to happen, which has made for a frame that is laterally stiffer, with tighter geometry; ultimately creating the best big-wheeled trail/enduro bike that we have seen from any manufacturer to date.
If you are looking for a bike to serve you anywhere from light-trail/XC riding to Enduro, this is one bike that cover a lot of bases, and make sure that you have a smile on your face the whole time!
For any additional questions, including availability, additional build options, etc, please feel free to reach out to me directly.
Customer Account Manager - Bike Gearhead
801-746-7580 ext. 4823